Vol. II, No. 16-17
Seminar on Kashmir
Reactivating the gene of
Kashmiri Pandit culture
On panel: (From left) Dr. S. S. Toshkhani, Dr. B. N.
Pandit, Dr. Karan Singh and Shri J. Veeraghavan
Kashmir Shaivism is a philosophy positive and
realistic in its approach to life. Rejecting negativism and escapism of every
kind, it regards consciousness to be one and indivisible. Unlike Vedanta, it
does not look upon the world as unreal but as a screen of radiance on which
teaches that monistic thought can be practised by anyone, man or woman,
without the restriction of caste, creed or colour. Kashmir Shaivism,
therefore, is a universal system, pure, real and substantial in every
- Swami Lakshman Joo
the Supreme unfolds itself with the help of its
unlimited energy from which it is inseparable. This energy, which stirred in the
first stirring, vibrates everywhere at every moment, "blooming in ranges of
consciousness." Kashmir Shaivism, therefore, urges man not to give up the
world but to see reality in its totality, recognizing his own true nature to be
identical with that of the Divine. For it 'moksha' is nothing but an
extension of one's own self to include the whole universe. The goal that it sets
before man is attainment of 'sarva-svatantrya' or the absolute freedom of
will and action. It is this vision of complete harmony in the relationship of
man, universe and God that makes Kashmir Shaivism relevant in the present day
world in which man, torn by inner and outer conflicts and is facing a
civilizational crisis of the gravest magnitude, is groping for real peace. What
Shaivism offers to him is an assurance of resolution of his unending dilemmas
and confusion of mind.
Perhaps that is why Kashmir Shaivite theory and
psychoanalytical practices are evoking intense interest in countries like the
USA, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, England and Japan where they are being
taken up for serious research in academic circles. It may be of interest to note
that in the recent years, the 'Vigyan Bhairava' has become a most sought after
Shaiva text in America for the pyshosomatic techniques it suggests to bring
about "the face to face recognition of the unconscious by the conscious
For Kashmiri Pandits, the people displaced from the
land where this unique school of philosophy evolved and spread from the 8th
century to the 14th, its importance lies in determining the parameters in which
their identity can be defined and understood. It can surely be of great help to
them in constructing their self-image after the devastation they have suffered
at the hands of forces unleashed by fundamentalist Islam. For those masquerading
as champions of 'Kashmiriat', a term invented to camouflage the present reality
in Kashmir, it poses the question: Is there anything greater that Kashmir has
contributed to world thought than Kashmir Shaivism? Why is it that those who are
not tired of parroting the politically convenient term day in and day out are
disinclined to include Kashmir Shaivism in the connotation that they seek to
give to it '?
While the reasons for it are obvious -- Kashmir is to
be identified solely with West-Asian Islamic culture of which Sufism too is but
a milder projection -- it makes one feel sad to note that even among the
Kashmiri Pandits, who count themselves as inheritors of the great Shaivite
legacy, only a few remain who know what Kashmir Shaivism really means. It is
another thing that among these few there are outstanding scholars like Prof B.
N. Pandit who is regarded as the greatest living authority on the subject. There
are also devotees of Ishwar Swaroop Swami Lakshman Joo, that beacon light of
monistic Shaivite thought who transmitted its radiance far and wide. And they
are doing excellent work to spread awareness about his teachings. Yet the fact
remains that there is much that needs to be done to acquaint intellectuals in
general with the basic concepts and doctrines of Kashmir Shaivism, the efforts
of some brilliant scholars in this direction not having much impact beyond the
groves of the academe. The task that lies before them is to translate and bring
out annotated editions of some of the core texts of the philosophy for the
benefit of the layman. Translation and annotation of the 8 volumes of
Abhinavgupta's Tantralok, in particular poses a really formidable
challenge for them.
It was with all this in mind that the N. S. Kashmir
Research Institute decided to hold a Seminar on Kashmir Shaivism in the Capital
jointly with the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, inviting prominent scholars to present
their papers on its various aspects. Not all of them could make it to the
seminar held on April 11, 1999, but those who participated found themselves
sharing their views and insights with a packed audience eager to absorb every
word they uttered. The lively discussion that followed showed that far from
being a mere academic exercise, the seminar was a thought provoking event, with
intellectuals like Dr. Karan Singh, the Chief Guest himself, asking questions
about the social relevance of Kashmir Shaivism at a time when Kashmiri Pandits
were facing disaster upon disaster.
Encouraged by the tremendous response that the Seminar
evoked, NSKRI is now thinking of organising an international seminar on the
subject even as preparations for organising an exhibition titled "Shiva
Drishti", the Shaiva Way of Life in December '99 on the manifestations
of Shiva in Kashmir's art, literature and life, are to be started.
The Seminar on Shaivism has set into motion a process
that envisages the launching of many more joint programmer with the Bhartiya
Vidya Bhavan in the ensuing months. An agenda for this is being drawn in
consultation with the worthy director of the Bhavan, Shri J. Veeraraghvan who is
showing a keen interest in such ventures. These programmes could well mean the
beginning of an effort to reactivate the gene of Kashmiri Pandit culture which
was forced by circumstances to remain dormant for long.
DOES YOUR HEART BEAT FOR CULTURE ?
(If it does then read this appeal)
We are sure it does. We are also sure that you support
the cause that NSKRI is pursuing. We do not need an opinion poll to confirm
this. But mere sympathy and good-wishes are not enough. Sustaining and
supporting a culture hi exile is no small task. Preserving and protecting
identity and heritage requires enormous effort. And also huge funds.
NSKRI has taken several projects in hand. An
encyclopaedia of Kashmiri culture, an album of Kashmiri miniature paintings, a
research journal, introductory books on Kashmir Shaivism and Shaktivad, basic
book on Kashmiri Pandit history and culture, acquisitions of Sharada
manuscripts, paintings and art objects, biographies of scholars, critical
editions of classics and core books, films, seminars and exhibitions on Kashmiri
Pandit cultural heritage, books and tracts on Kashmiri Pandit rituals and rites,
and above all a heritage centre in the heart of national Capital Delhi.
We hope you will like to see these projects through.
Then why don't you come forward and donate generously for making a success of
what the NSKRI is doing ?
PLEASE become a 'Life Member' by sending a
Payee's A/C cheque or draft for Rs. 3,000 in the name of 'N.S.Kashmir
Research Institute' (NSKRI).
OR become an 'Associate Member' by sending an
A/C Payee's cheque or draft for Rs.1000 annually favouring the NSKRI, 'N.S.
Kashmir Research Institute'.
EXTEND voluntary financial help for the regular
issuance and strengthening of your 'Unmesh'. Send your cheque/draft favouring 'N.S.
Kashmir Research Institute'.
- M.L. Pandit
Prominent scholars take part in Seminar on
"It is a unique philosophy and a
says Dr. Karan Singly in his inaugural speech
Reputed scholars from different parts of the country
participated in a seminar on Kashmir Shaivism organised jointly by the N.S.
Kashmir Research Institute and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in New Delhi on April 11,
1999. The Seminar, which was the first: of its kind to be held in the Capital,
was inaugurated by the well known intellectual and scholar Dr. Karan Singh.
Enlightening a receptive add appreciative audience in
the packed Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan hall about different aspects of Kashmir
Shaivism, the participants, who included Dr. B. N. Pandit, Dr. Navjivan Rastogi,
Prof. Lakshmishwar Jha, Dr. Kaushalya Wali, Dr. C. L. Raina and Dr. Ashutosh
Angiras, stressed on its relevance and importance in the present day world.
The Seminar began with hymns invoking the blessings of
the Mother Goddess sung by Smt. Radhika Gopinath in her inimitably sonorous and
Welcoming the participants and the distinguished
audience, Dr. S. S. Toshkhani, Chairman NSKRI said that the Seminar was part
ofthe Institute's efforts to explore the history of the seminal ideas, concepts
and thought processes that have evolved in Kashmir but have crossed its mountain
barriers to contribute in shaping the Indian mind.
Lighting the ceremonial lamp Dr. Karan Singh, who was
the Chief Guest, inaugurated the Seminars describing Kashmir Shaivism as a
unique system of philosophical thought and a distinct way of life that
integrates the physical, spiritual and metaphysical dimensions of a human being.
"It is not Mayavadi at all and does not negate life", he said.
Dr. Karan Singh referred to the link between the Shiva
Siddhanta of South and Shaivism of Kashmir and said that it is a great
tradition, aspects of which need to be studied in depth. He, however, lamented
that not much was being done in this direction in the country while in several
Western universities ambitious research work in Kashmir Shaivism had been
undertaken in the recent years.
Dr. Karan Singh recalled his association with some of
the leading scholars of Kashmir Shaivism like Gopinath Kaviraj, Swami Lakshman
Joo and Dr. B. N. Pandit and paid them his respects. He described Swami Lakshman
Joo as "all knowing" and a towering master of Shaiva Darshan with
"great insight and spiritual vision". He also recalled how Pandit
Parmanand, a well known Kashmiri scholar, helped him learn Sanskrit, beginning
his lessons with Shaiva texts like the Shiva Sutras and Ishwar
Referring to the outburst of militancy in Kashmir, Dr
Karan Singh said that "disaster after disaster had befallen on
Kashmir", but the Kashmiri Pandits had withstood them and hoped that they
shall be able to save their precious legacy.
The first session was chaired by Shri J. Veeraraghavan,
Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and former Secretary Culture, Government of
India. It started with the presentation by Dr. B.N. Pandit of his paper 'Kashmir
Shaivism: Fundamental Principles of Philosophy' in which he said: "Kashmir
Shaivism accepts the eternal existence of only one reality and that is Paramashiva
- absolute and pure consciousness lying beyond all the regions of mental and
material existence, but pervading and governing all of them. This infinite and
pure consciousness possesses infinite powers to will, to know and to do and has
unlimited blissfullness as its character. It presents outwardly its playful
nature, because play is an outward manifestation of inward bliss."
"The whole phenomena exists within this pure and
infinite consciousness in the manner in which a plant lies within a seed. A seed
is never independent in its nature and has to depend on several other entities
like soil, moisture, warmth, etc. for its outward growth …. The absolute
I-consciousness is, on the other hand, cent per cent independent in each and
every action and everything. It may project outwardly the phenomena lying in it
inwardly in the form of its potency, or may not do so, or may do it this way or
that way in accordance with its free will.
"The phenomena lie in infinite consciousness in
the form of its divine powers, which become reflected outwardly and appear as
the wonderfully complex phenomena. Such theory of creation, based on the
principles of reflection and manifestation, is the basic cosmogonical principle
of Kashmir Shaivism …." There is no restriction of caste, creed or sex,
and anyone with devotion for Lord Shiva is free to study and practice Kashmir
Shaivism, Dr. Pandit explained.
Dr. Navjeevan Rastogi, a leading scholar of Kashmir
Shaivism and former Director, Abhinavagupta Institute of Aesthetics and Shaiva
Philosophy, spoke next, focussing on the state of studies in the field during
the last 50 years. Distinguishing Kashmir Shaivism from other schools of Indian
phnosophica1 thought, Dr Rastogi said that it is not rooted in sorrow, nor does
it look to liberation or moksha as a way out. "It is a philosophy
that celebrates life", he asserted, "while other schools of Indian
philosophy are deterministic in their character". Kashmir Shaivism accepts
life in its totality and does not seek to categorise it like other philosophical
systems of the country which separate dharma, artha, kama and moksha, the
four goals of life, he pointed out. On the other hand it integrates all the
four. "Kashmir Shaivism is integral in its approach and takes life in its
totality", he noted.
Referring to the state of Shaiva studies in he country,
Dr Rastogi lamented that all leading lights like Kaviraj Gopinath, K.C. Panday,
Thakur Jaidev Singh, Rameshwar Jha..Kalidas Chattopadhyay have departed from the
world, "leaving scholarship in the field in jeopardy and danger".
"Only Dr. B. N. Pandit is still with us", he said with an air of
sadness. Dr. Rastogi divided the history of studies in Kashmir Shaivism into
four parts - the first part stretching from IX68to 1910,the second from 1911 to
1937,thethird from 1937 to 1966 and the fourth from 1966 onwards. The fourth
part started with the work of stalwarts like Dr. K.C. Pandey and signified a
period when the studies in this branch of Indian philosophy spread throughout
the country and even beyond to the Western countries.
Dr.Rastogi regretted that in this matter Indian
scholarship was lagging far behind researchers in Europe, USA and Canada, who
were evincing increased interest in Kashmir's Shaiva philosophy. He said that
there was need to define parameters of this study and to determine its essential
identity. He felt pained to note that "Abhinavaguptan thought was dying in
the land of Abhinavagupta's birth", and suggested that a standard
bibliography on the subject be complied and brought out and annotated editions
of core text books of Kashmir Shaivism like the 'Tantraloka' be published
as many of them had gone out of print. Dr. Rastogi also agreed with the
suggestion made by a distinguished member of the audience, Shri T. N. Ganjoo,
that there was need to publish a standard book on Kashmir Shaivism which would
explain its basic concepts and doctrines in a manner that it would be easy for
the layman to understand.
Prof. Lakshmishwar Jha, Professor of Sanskrit at the
Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth had 'Vedamulak
Shaivagamokta Shiva-Shakti ki Aitihasikta' (Historicity of the Concept of
Shiva-Shakti as propounded in the Shaiva Texts and its Vedic Roots) as the topic
of his Hindi paper, but he chose to speak, putting the written text aside though
adhering to the points made in it. In his vigorous speech Prof. Jha asserted
that Vedic philosophy is the original source of all branches of Indian
philosophical thought, including Shaivism. "Every term, every feature of
this school has been defined and discussed in the Vedas", he said,
"everything related to the concept of Shiva and Shakti has been clearly
explained. You can't claim to understand what the Agamas say unless you
understand what has been said in Nigamas."
Rounding up the discussion in the first session, Shri
J. Veeraraghvan related the anecdote of a man who was searching for his lost key
urider a lamp post because there was light there, although he had lost his key
somewhere else. "That is what we are also doing here", he said,
pointing to the plight of modern day researchers.
Shri J. Veeraraghavan said that despite all the
progress in science and technology during the last two hundred years or so, man
has yet to move from 'Apara Vidya' or the lower form of knowledge to 'Para
Vidya' or the highest form of knowledge.
Referring to Kashmir's contribution in the field of
learning and literature, Shri J. Veerarghvan said that Abhinavgupta's wonderful
commentary on Bharata's Natya Shastra still provided guidance and inspiration to
some of the finest classical dancers in the country today. "We should go
deeper and deeper into such great traditions", he said, expressing his
gratitude to NSKRI for bringing facts about it to light. He assured that the
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan would extend its fullest cooperation to the Institute in
creating an awareness about "this great culture".
The post-lunch session began with Dr. B.N. Pandit in
the chair. Presenting the first paper of the session, well-known Sanskri scholar
Dr Kaushalya Walli spoke on 'Spanda Shastra and its Utility in the Present Era'.
"Today's man", she said, "finds himself
in a state of great restlessness despite all the material progress he has made
with the help of science and technology. The world today may have become a
global village but man is in search of peace. This he can achieve only through
self-awareness, for which he needs to understand the Spanda principle
propounded by masters of Kashmir Shaivism like Vasugupta and Bhatta Kallatta,
she said. According to the Spanda Shastra, kshobha or the agitation
caused by primal ignorance makes the individual consider the self as non-self
and forgetfulness gives place to self-recollection, completing man's
evolution". "Spanda", Dr. Wali said means spiritual
dynamism. The infinite, perfect, divine consciousness is complete self-awareness
or vimarsha. It does not move yet causes all movement.
"The Divine", she went on to say," is
called Maheshwara on account of this self-awareness. The Spanda Karika
aims at divinising human nature'. It is not a philosophy for mere
intellectual satisfaction of man, but one that enables him to identify himself
with the essential nature of the Supreme Being, she explained.
The next speaker, Dr. C.L. Raina, examined the
philosophy of Shaktivada in relation to Kashmir Shaivism. He started with
the declaration that "we are all the children of Shakti and expansion of
the universe takes place from the prithvi-tuttva, or the earth element to
shakti-tattva or the highest principle. Shakti is the dynamic principle
that reflects itself in every stirring thing and makes everything move, he said.
"In Bhavani Sahasranama", he went on to say, "Nandikeshwara
asks Shiva what is it on which he meditates despite being the Lord ofthe
Universe." "It is Shakti" (cosmicenergy), replies Shiva.
The duality between 'aham' (I) and 'idam ' (this, the phenomenal
world) is the cause of man's delusion and therefore misery. It is only when we
realize that the whole universe is the manifestation of Shakti and
nothing but Shakti exists, we can free ourselves from this delusion. This
is what is called 'shakti sanchara' or the transmission of energy, and we
see that it is this alone that works. We go beyond the duality and reach the
transcendental stages. We find that Shakti is everything - tantra, mantra and
yantra. We understand the mysteries of the 45 bijaksharas, like
Shree Krishna Joo Kar did, who knew no Sanskrit but was a great devotee of
The concluding paper. 'Trika Darshan Evam Saundarya
Chetana' (Trika Philosophy and Aesthetic Sensibility) was presented by Dr.
Ashutosh Angiras in which he brilliantly expounded on the Shaiva conception of
the relationship between aesthetic creativity and spiritual experience.
"The Shaiva philosophers", he said,
"regarded beauty as a kind of self-expression and with the aid of their
aesthetic sensibility explored transcendentalness in the mundane world while
discovering the transcendental manifest itself in mundane forms in every sphere
and at every moment". "What could be considered as very important is
that the masters of Trika philosophy have not associated Shiva with
poetry, drama, dance or music alone but have seen him as a painter and a
sculptor too, looking at the world as a painting painted by Him. It can be said
that while their positive attitude towards life surrounded the dancer's feet
with the tinkling of bells, it filled their inner hearts with the vibration of
the spanda energy."
According to Dr. Angiras, the aesthetic sensibility of
the Shaiva masters is based on two things. One of them is 'svatantrya' or
absolute free will, the state in which the Being resides in his own nature. I he
second basis is the concept of aabhaasa or manifestation. There is
possibly a third dimension also - that found in the principle of spanda or
the first stirring of energy of consciousness. It is a kind of subtle movement
or activity or sound which is at the root of all creation and which frees
everything from a state of inertness giving it the vibration of life.
Summing up the discussion, Dr. B.N. Pandit further
explained the Shaivite conception of beauty and characteristics of their
aesthetic world view. He said, "Kashmir Shaivism is not based on rational
thinking and argumentation alone. Its finer principles are based on direct
revelation of the exactly correct truth regarding the nature and character of
the real self of a person and the world around. Such a realization was the
result of practice of a kind of Shivayoga known as the shambhavi mudra.
This practice has been prevalent in the country right from the age of the
Indus Valley civilization. The sage Yajnavalkya too has described the method of
practicing the shambhavi mudra which has been referred to in the Gita as
well. He said that the sage Durvasa was one of the original masters of this
practice, whose disciple, Tryambakaditya was succeeded by a line of teachers of
Kashmir Shaivism. Dr. Pandit expressed confidence that despite the present
political turmoil in Kashmir, the tradition of the Trika system of philosophy
shall continue unbroken in the future also.
The interesting aspect of the Seminar was the lively
discussion that followed the presentation of papers. Dr Badri Nath Kalla, Dr
Ashutosh Angiras, Prof. Lakshmishwar Jha, Shri T.N. Ganjoo, (Mrs.) Ranjana Gupta
and others took part in the discussion.
Faces of Glory
- A true Kashmirian scholar
[Pt. Damodar, son of the illustrious Pt. Sahib Ram
Kaul and younger brother of the equally renowned Pandit Daya Ram, was a Sanskrit
scholar gifted with unusual brilliance. His scholastic endowments greatly
impressed both Geoge Buhler and Aurel Stein who have paid very handsome tributes
to his genius. In its issue of October 1997, 'Unmesh' had drawn attention
towards his sequel to Rajatarangini in which he had carried the narrative
forward from Akbar's reign to his own times. This valuable work is unfortunately
not traceable now. Here we have R. N. Kaul, a great-grandson of Pt. Daya Ram,
profiling the personality of this great scholar about whom Buhler had said that
"he would shake Sanskrit prose or verse alike from the sleeve of his
garment ", and about whose life very little is known.]
Sahib Ram Kaul, born early in the 19th century in
Kashmir, was a renowned savant, Sanskrit scholar, author and researcher, whose
contribution to Sanskrit learning and knowledge of Kashmir's history and
geography, had received recognition, especially from Maharaja Ranbir Singh
(1829-1885), resulting in the Pandit's appointment as president of the Vidya
Vilas Sabha of the State and as chief teacher and head of the Sanskrit
Mahavidyalaya, founded by the ruler, in Srinagar. Sir Aurel Stein has referred
to Sahib Ram as "undoubtedly the foremost among the Kashmiri Sanskrit
scholars of the last few generations". Two of Sahib Ram's sons, followed in
their father's footsteps and in their own right acquired unenviable reputation
for their scholarship.
The elder son, Daya Ram, authored the 'Linga Purana
Bhavarth Sanket', (preserved in the Ranbir Research Institute, Jammu), was a
man of learning of the Shastras, achieved high proficiency in astrology
and studied Persian, and was an important member of the Maharaja's court, in
advising the Maharaja in the interpretation of the Shastras, Hindu law and
customs, in adjudication proceedings. He had a most charming personality,
heightened by a well-kept beard and was always immaculately dressed.
The second son, Damodar, was a brilliant scholar,
profoundly knowledgeable and master of repartee, who succeeded his father on his
death in 1872, as the Head of the Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, in Srinagar. Damodar
had been taken in adoption by his aunt, from which family later emerged two
outstanding scholars, both Shastris and brothers, Pt. Mukund Ram and Madhusudhan,
who was the last of the scholar from this family. But Damodar retained close
contact with the family of his birth, and his elder brother. Damodar is credited
with Praud Lekhak, a letterwriter and verses in continuation of Kalhana's
Rajatarangini of which the present location is not known. This sequel to
Rajatarangini had brought the account of Kashmir's history from Akbar's time
down to the last year of the 19th century.
It is interesting to note that Maharaja Ranbir Singh,
shortly after his accession to the throne of J&K State in 1856, initiated a
move for the preservation and collection of contemporary and ancient manuscripts
relating to the cultural heritage of Kashmir and to facilitate study of
Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic languages in the State. He built the magnificent
Raghunath temple in Jarnmu, symbolic of Rama Rajya concept of rule.
With Saheb Ram in charge, he set up a Sanskrit
Mahavidyalaya in Srinagar and another one in Jammu, with a Sanskrit
Mahapustakalaya, a library attached. He arranged to secure copies of books
from the private collection of other native rulers in India and from Varanasi
For the collection of religious manuscripts for the
library, select scholars were despatched far and near to secure copies of
published and unpublished manuscripts and rare books. For the rare books sold by
the owners, high prices were paid and those not sold were copied, through a team
of learned scholars including Sahib Ram Kaul. Collection of MSS for the library
began in 1869, as also transcribing of Sharada script to Devanagri and in due
course the library flowered into a repository of important Sanskrit works.
Meanwhile many Westerners interested in Indian culture
studied Sanskrit in Europe (particularly Germany, England and France) and were
appointed by the British Government of India, to specially created posts in
Sanskrit institutions in India, to explore and exploit the Indian Sanskrit
heritage. They were encouraged to collect, examine, translate edit and arrange
distribution of select Sanskrit works of which the government organised
allotment among British universities and collections, as well as some Indian
societies and institutes. Apparently it was their policy to rescue and secure
ancient manuscripts, dealing with India's (including Kashmir's) heritage, not
only from a mere academic interest and present the Indian civilization to the
world, perhaps with a colonial angle attached to it. The political department of
the Government of India was deeply involved in this.
The Government of India appointed Prof. G. Buhler a
Sanskrit scholar born in Hannover (1837-98), specializing in oriental languages
and archaeology, who had studied Sanskrit in Europe and worked as Professor,
Elphinstone College, Bombay (1868-72), who is said to have discovered over 5000
MSS for distribution by the Government. He was also deputed to Kashmir,
Rajasthan and Central India, in search of Sanskrit manuscripts.
Prof. Buhler arrived in Srinagar on August 11, 1875.
The Political Resident of Kashmir had arranged to deliver to him a memorandum on
Sanskrit libraries and books, together with a catalogue of works existing. He
was introduced to important Kashmiri Pandits. The following day he met Maharaja
Ranbir Singh, who offered him every assistance in his mission. He also visited
the Sanskrit School where he presumably met Damodar, the Head Teacher. On 15th
August 1875, Pandit Daya Ram called on him, who according to Buhler gave him
much valuable information. "Through his father the late Pandit Saheb Ram,
who appears to have been a man deeply versed in the Shastras and the ancient
history of his country, Pt. Daya Ram has become the possessor of much valuable
information on the ancient geography of Kashmir. A good deal of the
identification of places mentioned in the Rajatarangini, which I shall have to
mention in the sequel, have been made with his assistance", says Buhler.
By the 18th of August, work progressed fast and he
arranged with the two brothers, copies of nearly seventy works in the Residency
list. He made visits to many places, did minor excavations and compared the
locations of certain places described in Sahib Ram's 'Kashmir Tirtha Sangrah'.
From his contact with the other scholars in Kashmir, and in commenting upon
the scholastic eminence of others Buhler's remarks on Pt. Damodar are
particularly noteworthy as follows:
"As regards the present state of literary
activity, l can say that I saw one really distinguished Pandit, who would be
able to hold up his head anywhere - Damodar, the son of Saheb Ram, the Chief
Teacher in the Maharaja's Mudrissa. He possesses all the characteristics of a
true Kashmirian scholar, great quickness and sharpness, a considerable fund of
good-natured humour, and an inexhaustible flow of eloquence, combined with a
through knowledge of Sanskrit poetry and poetics and a very respectable
knowledge of grammar, of Nyaya and Shaiva philosophy - he explained to me
several verse from Sanskrit poets which had baffled not only myself; but also
some of the best Pandits of India. His own poetical compositions - a
continuation of the Rajatarangini and a letter-writer, Praud Lekhak, which
he was good enough to read and explain to me for hours - certainly surpass
Shriharsha and Bana and can be only compared to Subhandhu's Vasavadatta. Pandit
Damodar was not the only man of a scholarly bent of mind. I have already
mentioned, his brother Daya Ram as an authority on the ancient geography and
history of the country."
What a splendid unsolicited testimonial to the
intellectual prowess of a great Kashmiri scholar.
Buhler was greatly impressed by Damodar's ability to
"produce Sanskrit prose or verse alike from the sleeve of his
Sir Aurel Stein, Indologist, recognised Buhler's
pioneering work on establishing the critical principles as propounded by Pts.
Damodar and Daya Ram in correctly understanding Kalhana's Kashmir Kings'
Chronicle relating to the history and geography of Kashmir, and their
application to Nilamatpurana, the mahatamayas of tirthas and the
Rajatarangini. Stein had seen some parts of Damodar's incomplete sequel to
Rajatarangini too, and recorded his views in these words: "Had Pandit
Damodar been spared to complete it, his work would have shown that Kalhana could
have found generations past no worthier successor."
Moti Lal Saqi is no more
Community loses a veteran warrior on the
Moti Lal Saqi
Poet, writer, folk-lorist, researcher Moti Lal Saqi
passed away in the wee hours of May 21, 1999 in New Delhi after a massive heart
attack. Earlier in March he had undergone surgery for a heart ailment at Jammu,
and was now recuperating at his eldest son, Vijay Saqi's residence at Sarojini
Nagar. The tragic news of his death was received with great shock by his
numerous friends and admirers in Delhi who rushed to bid him a tearful farewell.
With his demise the Kashmiri Pandit community has lost yet another warrior who
was in the vanguard of the struggle to save and sustain its culture in exile.
Born in 1936 at Bijbehara, Kashmir, Moti Lal Saqi
enriched Kashmiri language and literature in several ways, and emerged as a
major poet and critic in the language while still in his youth. From the lyrical
romanticism of 'Modury Khwab' (Sweet Dreams), his first collection of
poems, to the spiritual restlessness and an inward quest for higher values based
on faith reflected in 'Mansar', for which he won the Sahitya Academi
award, and 'Mrigvan', Saqi underwent a significant change in his
sensibility as a poet and established an idiom distinctly his own. The traumatic
experience of uprootment from his native soil in 1990 found a poignant
expression in many of his poems, his long poem 'Marsi' (Elergy) being a
most disturbing document of the tragedy of the Pandits' displacement. His latest
collection 'Niry Nagma' (Songs of the Green Meadows) shows his intense
nostalgia for Kashmir and points to the torture of having to live in a forced
exile away from the Valley's myriad charms and attractions.
Saqi's contribution as a literary critic is equally
impressive, his work on Sheikh Nur-ud-Din, popularly known as Nund Rishi, and
the Sufi poets like Samad Mir is regarded as monumental. As a folk-lorist, Saqi
compiled five volumes of Kashmiri folk-songs with a valuable introduction and
annotation. His numerous articles on Kashmiri literature, art and culture were
published in several prestigious magazines and journals of the country.
Moti Lal Saqi was a lexicographer as well, having
worked as an editor of the Kashmiri-Kashmiri and Urdu-Kashmiri dictionaries
brought out by the J&K Cultural Academy under the Chief Editorship of Prof.
S. K. Toshkhani. He also edited the three volumes of Kashmiri Encyclopedia
published by the Academy, showing his great acumen as a researcher.
His latest book 'Aagar Neb' reflects his deep
research and study regarding various aspects of Kashmiri culture. Surprisingly
enough, Saqi was awarded Padmashri for his services to Urdu literature.
Moti Lal Saqi was alo associated with the activities of
the N. S. Kashmir Research Institute and had agreed to work for the compilation
of the encyclopaedia of Kashmiri culture which the Institute is going to bring
out. We at NSKRI deeply mourn his loss which we feel is immeasurably great for a
community that values learning and literature above everything elese.
A tribute to Saqi
Poet, writer, dramatist, scholar, researcher,
encyclopaedist, specialist in Kashmir's cultural and literary heritage,
authority on the Valley's Rishi tradition - all rolled into one - Moti Lal Saqi.
A simple villager, who never shed off his pastoral
homeliness, humility and open-heartedness, who never allowed even a grain of
false ego enter his head, inspite of recognition, both at state and national
levels, and who always lived the lily of an honest and eager learner till his
last breath. That was Saqi - ever lively, ever communicative, ever cheerful.
When I think of Saqi the words of the great French
philosopher Voltaire, come to my mind. He had said, "not to be occupied,
and not to exist, amount to the same thing".
Saqi kept himself perennially occupied with finer
pursuits in life. Put your finger anywhere on the literary and cultural canvas
of Kashmir, and you will find Saqi's name there, as a contributor, a researcher,
an elucidator, a commentator or a scholar. All that kept him occupied were his
creative endeavours and his pen seemed to reach everywhere. In these days of
pin-pointed specialization, one hardly finds any equal to this man of
When the physical and physiological makeup of his
person, especially his heart? prevented him from keeping himself actively
occupied, as he had done all his life? Saqi ceased to exist. He died.
Like all displaced Kashmiris, Saqi's soul had been
deeply lacerated when circumstances drove him out of Kashmir, the land of his
ancestors. Everyone loves his land of birth, but Saqi had done so, sometimes
with the passion of a lover, sometimes with the care of a doting mother, and
sometimes with the dedication of an ardent admirer. His only possession, only
asset and only wealth, was his pen, which he used all his life in praise of
Some years back I once told him that since our
displacement, he had gone a little slow with his pen. He responded with a deep
sigh and recited a coupled of Nadim:
Mye khoon-e-dil az syatha chhu chyon kyut
Tsu thav pagah kyut sharaab Shaqi
Then, after a pause, he added, with yearning in his
eyes, "because our pagah' (tomorrow) will be in Kashmir". He
did not live to see the 'pagah' of his dreams. Many of us won't, either.
KASHMIR: UNKNOWN DIMENSIONS OF A TRAGIC
'The Wail of Kashmir - A Quest for Peace' by
R. N. Kaul. Pp 310; price Rs. 350. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd.
A phenomenon that has emerged since the outbreak of
insurgency in Kashmir is the mushrooming of a new breed of self-proclaimed
Kashmir experts always itching to say something about what went wrong in the
trouble-torn Valley and why. This has resulted in a spate of books on the
subject that have served only to drown the truth in a cacophony of catch-words
and cliches. Despite this deluge, the common man in the country today is in no
better position to understand why a region that was being touted as the
show-window of Indian secularism for about half a century turned into a breeding
ground of fundamentalism and secessionism.
While the tendency to hug illusions and perpetuate
myths is still strong among those who are supposed to provide answers to
questions pertaining to the reality in Kashmir, there are fortunately some
people still around who are endowed with a clarity of perception and ability to
sift fact from fiction to give a coherent and correct analysis of the state of
things prevailing there. One such political analyst of great ability is R. N.
Kaul whose latest book 'The Wail of Kashmir -- a Quest for Peace' throws
significant light on the factors and forces that have led the Valley to the
present turmoil. Armed with an insight that enables one to delve into depths, R.
N. Kaul has tried to clear the fog that surrounds many an issue and turn of
events in Kashmir.
Born in Srinagar, R. N. Kaul has been personally close
to a number of persona who have played important political roles in his native
state before and after its accession to India. This gives Kaul an advantage that
lends an authentic ring to his account of things. In 'The Wail of Kashmir' he
has tried to lift the veil on several developments that have influenced the
course oiEpolitical history in the state.
But what distinguishes it from the tonnes of paper that
have been balckened in the name of reporting the truth about Kashmir, is that
its author has not followed the beaten track but chosen an entirely different
area for his analysis. Pulling a coup de theatre of sorts he has brought
to the centre-stage a people who have been "founders of Kashmir", but
have been marginalised, treated cruelly by history which they have had a crucial
hand in shaping. 'The Wail of Kashmir' presents the story of Kashmir in the
context of the suffering of these people as well as their contribution in
various fields. "The tragic story of Kashmiri Pandit", Kaul writes in
his preface to the book, "call for a benevolent exposition in the right
perspective - a task that is difficult but has been well accomplished by the
The first chapter of the book provides an insight into
the "origin, history and characteristics" of the Pandits, highlighting
their past glories and present ethos. This makes a fascinating though somewhat
sad reading. However, the writer's view, borrowed from Sheikh Abdullah's 'Aatash-e-Chinar',
that the term 'Kashmir) Pandit' is some two hundred years old and was first used
by the Moghul king Mohammed Shah is not quite convincing and needs further
investigation. For, as early as in the lath century we find saint-poetess
Laileshwari using the word 'Pandit' in the sense of the 'Divine Lover' in one of
her verses. Perhaps Shah Jehan has also applied the term for some of his
Kashmiri of finials.
The author has quoted George Buhler in detail to
describe the character, traditions, customs and social mores of the Pandits. It
would have certainly enhanced the value of the book if the author had given his
own appraisal in addition to what Buhler has written in this regard.
Three more chapters, the 9th, l 0th and 11th, carrying
the thrust of the book, have been exclusively devoted to the plight and
predicament of the Pandits. The author is candid in his observations about the
impact of communalization and criminalisation of politics in the state started
by none other than Sheikh Abdullah himself on the marginalisation and
humiliation of the Pandit minority. This trend acquired dangerous and genocidal
proportions with the increase in communal violence against them in 1986 and 1990
leading to their ultimate exile, and uprootment even as the central and the
state governments failed to protect their life, property and other
constitutional and human rights. The author has movingly described the hell
through which Pandit refugees have had to pass after being hounded out of their
homes. He seems to be deeply concerned about the future of this dispossessed,
deprived and forsaken community and has called for urgent "stopgap
arrangements" to help them till they are eventually able to return to the
In Chapter 10, aptly titled 'The Sheikh and the Pandit',
the author has discussed what he calls the "sweet and sour"
relationship between Sheikh Abdullah and the Kashmiri Pandits. He has lambasted
the Sheikh for his antipathy towards the Pandits and his malicious
pronouncements against them in his so-called autobiography 'Aatash-e-Chinar'.
Even though Kaul has not presented full facts about the organised assault
against the Pandits instigated by the Sheikh in 1931, he has correctly called
him "the true godfather" of the "firmly institutionalized religio-political
linkage in Kashmir". There is no doubt that the Sheikh has been gravely
unjust to the Pandits, making them pawns in his political games and hostages of
secularism to secure personal ends.
In the 3rd and 4th chapers, foreign invasions of
Kashmir and other parts of India have been rightly linked and described as
attempts at subjugation and colonization. Kaul has also very realistically
described the sequence of events that formed the background to the invasion of
Kashmir by Pakistani raiders in 1947. He has blamed the Maharaja of
prevarication in signing the Instrument of Accession to India- a blunder for
which the country had to pay a very heavy price. While the writer has presented
an in-depth analysis of the forces at play at different levels during that
crucial period, he appears to have allowed, for once, his reverence for Nehru to
have coloured his objectivity and has glossed over some of his monumental and by
now well-known blunders in handling the Kashmir issue. These blunders have,
infect, been responsible to a large extent for internationalizing the issue and
allowing Kashmir to become the hotbed of ISI intrigues.
Kaul also appears to have taken a too narrow legalistic
view of the Article 370 of the Constitution, almost pleading for its retention.
Without going into any discussion about his arguments, one can say that the
controversial Article was introduced to please Abdullah and ensure the
Muslim-majority character of the Jammu & Kashmir State. The fact is that
Article 370 has acted as a wall of suspicion between Kashmir and the rest of the
country and has served only to foster separatist sentiments among Kashmiri
In Chapters 8 and 9 the anatomy of autonomy has been
thoroughly examined only to reach the conclusion that the demand for it is
nothing but a facade for de-accession. The people in the Indian administered
Kashmir enjoy fullest degree of autonomy, the writer points out, blasting
Pakistan for comparative lack of basic constitutional rights for the people of
The Epilogue at the end effectively shatters a number
of myths about Pakistan's role in the on-going proxy war in Kashmir. The
Post-script that follows it updates the book to covet some of the latest
developments till the Lahore Declaration.
The main thrust in the book is, however, on the fate of
the Kashmiri Pandits, who are suffering for holding aloft the tricolour in
Kashmir for fifty years - a grim and tragic fact of post-independence India
towards which very few have shown the courage to point Indeed any attempt to
present an analysis without refering to their plight is like playing Hamlet
without f the Prince. Viewed in this context, the book 'The Wail of Kashmir - a
Quest for Peace' truly "lays bare the soul of Kashmir and the Kashmiri
Pandits". as claimed in the blurb. This makes it a must-be-read book for
all those who are interested in knowing unknown dimensions of the tragedy in